In May of 2014, I had a happy breakthrough moment when I added another generation to my tree on my Young line in Scotland. It was a major victory that had just been waiting there for me. That discovery led to additional discoveries when I found parents for both James Young and Janet Robertson. In just a few short weeks I had added two full generations and plenty of descendants. It was exciting!
My excitement quickly came to a halt.
You see, I like to participate in building the Family Tree in FamilySearch.org. So once I have researched a family well, I go into FamilySearch and try to update, source, add, merge, or whatever is needed, to help that Tree be as correct as possible.
When I went into the tree to add or attach James Young & Janet Robertson’s parents, I was faced with the most convoluted mess I’d come across yet.
This was my James & Janet with some of their children:
Everything looked pretty good. Some facts, sources, children, and grandchildren were (and still are) missing, but otherwise, this was all correct.
But then a troubling duplicate reared it’s head when I went looking for James Young and Janet Ferguson, James’ parents. I found this:
So what is the trouble exactly? Oh goodness, where do I begin…
This James Young has the same birth and death dates and places as my James Young. He also has parents with the same names as my James Young’s parents. His wife also has the same name as my James Young’s wife. His first two children listed have the same names, birth dates, and birth places as my James Young’s first two children.
But then. There are problems.
The marriage date and place are different by two years and 1 parish. This James Young’s wife Janet Robertson has a different birth date and place, and different parents from my Janet. And, who are those last two children? They don’t seem to belong to my James Young and Janet Robertson.
The more I tried to unravel this, the more confusing it was. I started by looking at the marriage records for both couples. I wondered if they were a duplicate couple who had banns read in a neighboring parish? Had the record of the banns been indexed incorrectly? It’s a pretty big stretch since the entire date is so drastically different, but I wasn’t going to rule it out. Looking at all of the records – all four – made it quite clear that there were two couples. One who married in Renfrew, Renfrewshire in 1823 and one who married in High Church, Paisley, Renfrewshire in 1821.
At this point I decided I needed to complete a surname study for both parishes. For the next three years I slowly went through the microfilm records for these parishes every time I went to BYU to research. I had a notebook. Every event for someone with the surname of Young was recorded. It was slow and tedious. I didn’t have much time to give to it. It felt like it would take forever.
But then! Ohhhh, this is about to get good…
About six weeks ago, I started helping two different people with Scottish research. I hadn’t been working on my Scottish lines recently. I knew that the ScotlandsPeople website had been updated. I’d gotten lots of emails about it. I just hadn’t tried it out yet. There were so many complaints about glitches at first, that I thought I would let the dust settle before I used it. I had other parts of my tree to work on, so it was just fine.
As I helped these two different people discover the joys of Scottish research, it started an itch for me. I wanted to work on part of my Scottish lines again.
One afternoon, about 4 weeks ago, I was zipping around my house getting stuff done. I had the strongest impression that I should revisit one of my brick walls – Andrew Brown, my 4th great grandfather. I dropped everything and gave it a look. Over the next three days I completely demolished that brick wall and had the best time pushing my tree back several generations. But that, is a story for another day.
As my Andrew Brown journey was winding down, I thought about my dusty notebook and my Young Surname Study. It hadn’t gotten any attention for a few months. ScotlandsPeople is so different now. I thought I could probably complete the project from home now without having to buy too many records. So I pulled out my notebook and got to work.
I am sooooo happy to say that on Tuesday, the 13th of June, 2017, I tackled the main goal of my Young Surname Study. I had enough information to accurately separate the two James Young and Janet Robertsons and their children. I carefully fixed everyone, sourced them, and made sure they are attached to the correct family members. That Tuesday was a long and wonderful day.
Without going into too many confusing details, this is what I discovered.
The James Young who was attached to my James Young’s parents is a different man. He did in fact marry a Janet Robertson in 1821 in High Church, Paisley, Renfrewshire. But after that, there is no trace of either of them. No children, no death records, no census. I don’t know where they went.
The first two children – James Young b. 1824 and Thomas Young b. 1828 were actually the children of my James and Janet and were duplicates.
The daughter, Jean Young, who did not belong to my James Young and Janet Robertson, did not belong to this James Young and Janet Robertson either. She is the daughter of John Walker Young and Janet Robertson who were married in 1828 in Neilston, Renfrewshire. Her complete name is actually Jean Anderson Young and this little darlin’ has two birth and baptism records in two different parishes. Luckily for me, the father’s unusual occupation of (Calico) Printer in Grahamston was listed on both of her records, along with the detail that she was the couple’s 2nd child and 2nd daughter.
The last son listed, Robert Young, was not the child of my James and Janet or of this James and Janet either. He was the son of a James Young and Janet Robertson who married in Paisley, High Church, Renfrewshire in 1831, four years before his birth in the exact same parish and ten years after the marriage of the couple he was attached to.
In the end, this meant that the convoluted James and Janet were left with no birth and death dates and places for James, no children, no parents for James, and still attached to the parents for Janet. Parents that I did not research, so I can’t say for certain they are in fact her parents.
My James and Janet are now attached properly to their children and parents. Well, aside from the few children I haven’t fully researched and added yet.
My surname study is not complete. There are still plenty of family members I need to finish researching. But these are my big takeaways from my progress so far:
First – Don’t be afraid of a mess in FamilySearch. You can solve it! Even if it takes three years. No one messed with the mess because I left a very detailed note on both James Youngs explaining my research project. If you want to work effectively in FamilySearch – communicate! Leave notes, sources, and good explanations when you make changes or additions.
Second – A surname study is an AWESOME way to really get to know a parish and a family or set of families. You get a good sense of how many people live there and how they are connected to each other. It took my best guesses, and some surprise people and facts, and turned them into concrete conclusions.
Third – There are A LOT of James Youngs in the county of Renfrew in Scotland. 😉
Have you ever completed a surname study? Would a surname study help your research?